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CEO of SeaWorld shareholder suggests trainer was to blame for her death

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Updated: 1/25 2:30 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. (WFTV) -- A top executive at SeaWorld's largest shareholder is accused of saying an experienced trainer killed by a whale should be blamed for her own death, Channel 9's Kenneth Craig has learned.

Trainer Dawn Brancheau died in 2010 after she was attacked at the park by an orca named Tilikum.

Comments made by Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman directly contradict statements by SeaWorld's own management and training staff while they were under oath.

The topic of conversation during the interview turned to the controversial documentary "Blackfish," which follows the Orca Tillikum, which is responsible for three deaths, including trainer Brancheau.

During Thursday's interview, Schwarzman suggested the former trainer was responsible for her own death.

"They had one safety lapse, interestingly, with a situation where the person involved violated all the safety rules that we had," said Schwarzman.

Blackstone is SeaWorld's largest shareholder and since that interview, they've issued statements that the Schwarzman mispoke.

In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited SeaWorld for not providing adequate protections for trainers and during those hearings, SeaWorld leaders admitted there no were precursors that would've warned Brancheau she was about to be attacked and that she made no mistakes.

All along, the former trainer's family has stood behind the theme park.  This week, the family wrote a letter stating they are not affiliated with "Blackfish" in any way, saying Brancheau would not have stayed at SeaWorld if she felt that the whales were not well cared for.

Earlier this week, new questions surrounded the lead investigator in the federal probe into Brancheau's death.

On Tuesday, OSHA officials said they are looking into the woman who led the agency's investigation after photos show Lara Padgett hanging out with the cast and filmmakers of the documentary.

In a statement to Channel 9, OSHA representatives said, "Allegations involving employee conduct are taken seriously and OSHA is investigating." 

The blog alleges Padgett wasn't just taking pictures but that she traveled around the country and attended movie premieres with the cast.

SeaWorld sent a statement to Eyewitness News on Tuesday evening that said, "We are aware of OSHA inspector Lara Padgett's affiliations with the cast of 'Blackfish.'  As we've said all along, the film is misleading, inaccurate and agenda-driven.  To build its anti-captivity narrative, it relies on the accounts of people who are animal activists. Ms. Padgett appears to be one of them."
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Dan orlando - 1/25/2014 10:42 PM
1 Vote
You could ask anyone at seaworld that work with dawn and they would tell you the same thing, she had work with tilikum before. tilikum yes has killed one trainer in 1990 at sealand of the pacific and in 1999 a homeless man who avoided security, and jump into tilikum holding pool. Dawn was a great and a expert trainer, and you people keep or tarnishing her name , this is something that bothers those who knew her in a personal and professional level. I hate to sound rude but you leave me not much options. this particular documentary 15 percent of it true and 85 percent are lies. Dawnne was the best at what she did. she was one of the 5 top trainers the park had. rest in Peace Dawn April 16,1969 to February 24,2010

Dan orlando - 1/25/2014 10:37 PM
1 Vote
You could ask anyone at seaworld that work with dawn and they would tell you the same thing, she had work with tilikum before. tilikum yes has killed one trainer in 1990 at sealand of the pacific and in 1999 a homeless man who avoided security, and jump into tilikum holding pool. Dawn was a great and a expert trainer, and you people keep or tarnishing her name , this is something that bothers those who knew her in a personal and professional level. I hate to sound rude but you leave me not much options. this particular documentary 15 percent of it true and 85 percent are lies. Dawnne was the best at what she did. she was one of the 5 top trainers the park had. rest in Peace Dawn April 16,1969 to February 24,2010

Dan orlando - 1/25/2014 10:31 PM
1 Vote
Dawn Brancheau one of the best people i knew , she was the senior trainer , as well as jenny , you could ask laura sorovic, and well as a participant in the movie black fish John Jett as well as jenny, or Holly or mark, Mark was the animal currator for a while and laura the assistant animal currator, Dawn was all about safety and make sure that everyone follow protocol to be safe, and during the dine in with shamu nothing was done out of protocol, and for this to even been publish is a waiste of time, have some respect for Dawnne who you never knew, and have choose not to let her rest in peace this Young lady Born april 16,1969 and whos life was taken due to lack of the pool having the bottom lift, to be able to lift tilikum up immediately its was cause her her life, she was never in the water with tili she was in a platform that off to the side of the pool its was not her first time doing this and this was not prohibited to trainers of her experience and for those who never had real interaction with tilikum. so who ever this investor is is a Jerk and idiot, all Blackfish did was made someone rich and underminding the reality of who Dawn really was.

Dan orlando - 1/25/2014 10:24 PM
1 Vote
Dawn was concern about safety always this particular documentary keeps on blaming Dawnee for this incident, dawn was all about safety for those of you who didnt know , i am so fed up with this, and grabriella cowperweigh Dawn was all about safety, ask anyone like Laura sarovic the currator of animal safety. and Jenny who held the same position as Dawn, this is something that was done every day nothing out of routine, so for who make this statement i say personally to him to go to hell
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